Long term success — and in some cases, survival — of many organizations relies on ongoing business process improvement efforts. When managed well, process improvements can fuel efficiency, engagement, profitability, innovation and growth.
But how do you gain the executive buy in needed to kick-start such efforts and ensure those initiatives are maintained over time?
A Structured Approach to Process Improvements
When you make continuous process improvement part of your DNA, your staff, your customers and your company’s bottom line all benefit.
But that’s easier said than done. It takes a structured approach to bring process improvement efforts to life and to keep stakeholders involved and motivated.
To build a compelling case for business process improvement, begin by linking the initiative to the organization’s overall business strategy. Demonstrating how process improvements can help the company achieve its business goals will attract the interest and support of senior leadership.
Be ready to demonstrate how each of the processes you’re looking to improve will add value from a strategic point of view. Employ a structure that shows how process improvement connects the company’s technology, services and strategy with the customer.
This may sound obvious, but it is also important to identify and understand the organization’s critical issues and process problems so that you can tackle these in your process improvement plan.
Talk to people at multiple levels within your organization to discover not only what’s keeping them up at night, but any disconnects that might exist between those doing the day-to-day work and the executive team. And, of course, listen to your customers — what issues are impacting them and what specific complaints do they have about your company?
Celebrate Process Improvement Successes
Identifying key issues and getting sign-off from senior leadership is a good start, but won’t be enough to guarantee success.
Only with organizational wide buy-in will you motivate people to participate and make the process improvement initiatives work. Seek out process champions in each department or team — the creative doers who are most likely to challenge the status quo and identify better ways of doing things. Their buy-in will help communicate the improvements for staff and customers process improvements can bring.
Use short, sharp messages that give examples of exactly how process improvement will make things better. Look for new examples — things like reducing costs or improving customer experience are overused and too vague to grab attention — and always be honest and realistic. It's all about incremental transformation, which means you’ll need to maintain this messaging over an extended period of time.
Establish a few quick wins as quickly as possible so people can see the benefits. Look for processes with high levels of inefficiency, negatively impacting customer experience or in high-risk areas. And recognize that the executive team will need to see more than the promise of happier customers for them to buy-in. They will want to see tangible, quantifiable benefits.
Finally, remember this is an ongoing process. Continued buy-in at the executive level demands continued delivery and demonstrations of value. Implement regular reviews to track and report on your progress, identify new areas of opportunity, and maintain momentum. And don’t forget to celebrate successes and progress. Both are critical to maintaining process improvement momentum.
Getting Started Is the Hard Part
By making business process improvement an integrated part of your day-to-day operational processes and reviews, you set your business up for long term success. It transforms process improvements from being viewed as an extra, administrative thing to do to a normal part of your project methodology and PMO.
Bottom line: You'll need a solid case and organizational buy to get your process improvements off on the right foot. You can’t do it alone.
The good news is that the hardest part is getting started. Once you’ve demonstrated benefits for customers, staff, and executives, and have a few wins on the board, it will become like second nature.